European Court Orders Bosnia To Hold First Mostar Election Since 2008

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has condemned Bosnia-Herzegovina for its failure to hold municipal elections in the ethnically divided city of Mostar for more than a decade over a legal issue.

The Strasbourg court’s ruling on October 29 came in response to a suit filed by a Mostar resident and politician and gave authorities six months to amend election laws to allow a vote to take place.

The matter stems from the authorities' failure to enforce a 2010 decision by the country's Constitutional Court in 2010.

Mostar politician Irma Baralija filed the suit, arguing that the legal issue prevented her from voting or running in a municipal election.

The court said in a statement that Bosnia had "failed to comply with its duty to take measures to protect Baralija from discriminatory treatment on the grounds of her place of residence and to hold democratic elections in Mostar."

The court ruling rejected the government’s contention that the delay was caused by efforts to agree on a power-sharing formula.

"We have won!" Baralija told reporters in the capital, Sarajevo, after the ruling was announced.

Either party can appeal the ECHR ruling within a three-month period.

Mostar’s population of some 106,000 people is 48.8 percent ethnic Croat and 44.2 percent Muslim Bosniak, with the city split mainly by the Neretva River that flows through the central area.

The city reflects the tense situation throughout the country following the 1992-95 war that left Bosnia divided into two separately governed regions -- Serbian and Muslim-Croat.

Bosnia's Croats and Muslims were allied against ethnic Serbs during much of the war, but the two communities also fought against each other in 1993 and 1994, leaving Mostar split on ethnic lines.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, AP, and AFP